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Earth-Sized Exoplanet Discovered via Observatory Data

The National Science Foundation-funded Gemini observatory helped confirm the first potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanet. Researchers say this discovery is unique because the planet, called Kepler-186f, resides in a temperate region around its host star where water could exist and could possibly sustain life. Earth-sized planets are very difficult to detect because of contrast with their host stars.

While the Kepler space telescope made the initial discovery, researchers say ground-based telescopes, the W.M. Keck and Gemini observatories, were critical in confirming the planet. Utilizing the Gemini north telescope, researchers were able to probe into the star system. The visiting differential speckle survey instrument on the telescope produced images with extreme detail.

Researchers say the observations from Keck and Gemini on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, combined with other data, calculations, and analysis, allowed the team to be 99.8 percent confident that Kepler-186f is real.

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